Virtual College Fair encourages high school seniors to seek higher education

Open to all Idaho high school students, attendees can learn about all programs offered at each of Idaho’s eight public and three private higher education schools.

BOISE, Idaho — Historically, Idaho has struggled with college and university attendance after high school.

Many students are now deferring their secondary education plans due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

However, it’s a fact about high school seniors: the longer they delay a decision about college and career, the harder it is for them to re-engage, according to college and career program manager for the Idaho State Board of Education, Byron Yankey.

This reality is one of the reasons for this week’s Virtual College Fair. Open to every Idaho high school student, their families, and adults looking to advance or change their career, attendees can learn about all programs offered at each of Idaho’s eight public and three private higher education institutions.

“This is just one way for us to introduce students to their possibilities,” Yankey said.

Last spring, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed high school seniors from taking the next step in their education journey. Enrollment at Idaho State University is down 4%, 5% at the University of Idaho and 2% at Lewis-Clark State College.

Idaho’s four community colleges saw mixed enrollment numbers. Some increased, while others decreased slightly. Boise State University’s rates were about the same.

“While those numbers are down, they’re not as bad, not nearly as bad as some of the projections that were made last year when this all started,” Chief Communications and Legislative Affairs officer for ISBE Mike Keckler said.  “There were some projections that suggested enrollment could be down over 20%. So this is actually good news.” 

Idaho has made great strides in encouraging students to seek some form of higher education, whether it be college or career technical. Five years ago, a Direct Admissions Initiative launched in which students at or above a board-approved benchmark are pre-accepted to Idaho’s eight public universities and colleges.

Students that did not meet that criteria are admitted to the six public higher education institutions that offer certificate or associate degree programs.

“Initially what we noticed with Direct Enrollment was that fewer students were enrolling out of state,” Yankey said. “They were making more in-state choices with that. There has been increase, a slight increase from year to year.  This year the disruption has really made a difference in our enrollment at our colleges and universities.”

That disruption is COVID-19.

 While so much seems uncertain due to the pandemic, ISBE wants to remind students and parents to take the Next Steps.

“There are so many opportunities available for you whether it’s in a community college, a workforce training program, a four year program, or headed towards a PhD, those opportunities await you,” Yankey said.

The Virtual College Fair starts Tuesday and runs through October 1.

A link to the virtual college fair is posted on the Next Steps Idaho website.

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